SoundCloud is in a weird place right now. After years of financial distress, which culminated in some much-needed changes to the corporation’s ownership and management structure, the music streaming platform apparently still can´t keep it together for very long.
The new CEO Kerry Trainor has said he intends to shift the company’s focus to the creators (like it was during its inception, and as it should have remained). It would be nice if it were true, but at this point it kind of feels like lip-service.
While we have to admit SoundCloud has been implementing some interesting new features, the launch of its self-monetization program Premier (which allows musicians to upload and make money from their content directly) has been tainted by the fact that the original contract artists were expected to sign was highly predatory. It included stipulations such as a strict covenant not to sue and extremely unclear payment terms, while at the same time allowing SoundCloud to make changes to the contract as it pleased, without even having to notify the participating artists about any alterations. Shady stuff. You can read the full report about the initial version of the contract here.
After the news broke out, SoundCloud still tried to save face with a public statement defending the contract terms, which as you may have guessed didn’t sound very sincere. Now, the streaming service has announced that the original contract has been rewritten, changing or outright eliminating many of the problematic clauses. For example: the covenant not to sue has been removed, payments have been clearly scheduled, and any new contract revisions will have to be notified to artists two weeks before they take effect.
Self-monetization programs were created in order to provide artists with an alternative way to publish their songs, allowing them to operate outside of the classic label system. However, even with these new monetization models, individual artists can still fall prey to publishers, as this case clearly demonstrates.
This victory of musicians’ rights over corporate interests should be applauded; as it turns out, journalism and public outcry can still have a positive effect on the world.
If you’re interested in supporting fair and transparent business practices toward artists and their content, consider purchasing music through Bandcamp: between 80 and 85% of your money will go to the authors, a much larger slice than what is usual in the music industry.